Hamilton was founded in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 1892. It followed three other companies on the same premises. The short-lived Adams & Perry watch company had operated from 1874 to 1876, succeeded by the Lancaster Watch Company founded in 1877. Lancaster was purchased by Abram Bitner in 1886, who founded the Keystone Standard Watch Company. The Hamilton Watch Company in turn purchased Keystone in 1892; their name came from Andrew Hamilton, owner of the land on which the factory was built, and the man credited with founding the city of Lancaster with his son James.
Initially, all of Hamilton’s products were purchased by the American railway companies, and they marketed their pocket watches as the “Watch of Railroad Accuracy.”. In the first World War, they began making wristwatches for the Army, and this trend continued after the war. In 1951 the brand began its long association with Hollywood, appearing in the film The Frogmen. In 1957 Hamilton presented the world’s first electric watch, the Hamilton Electric 500, made in various asymmetric cases including the Ventura designed by Richard Arbib. The Ventura was worn by Elvis Presley and it appeared in his movie Blue Hawaii.
In 1966, Hamilton purchased the Buren Watch Company, located in Büren an der Aare, Switzerland, and Hamilton used Swiss movements for some of the watches made in Lancaster. The Hamilton-Buren Micro-rotor was the first patented calibre to use a small oscillating weight instead of the usual large rotor on the back of the movement. The history of Hamilton watches made in America effectively came to an end in 1969. For another three years, Hamilton’s watches were produced in Switzerland by Buren; the partnership was dissolved in 1972. Nonetheless the brand succeeded in recording another world first: the Pulsar, the first LED digital watch, 1970. The Pulsar brand name was later purchased by Seiko. The Hamilton Pan Europ was one of the first automatic chronographs, made in 1971 utilising the calibre 11 movement, developed in a partnership with Breitling, Heuer and Buren.
On 16 May 1974, in the throes of the quartz crisis, the holding company Société Suisse pour l’Industrie Horlogère (SSIH) purchased the Hamilton brand name. In 1983, the merger of watch groups ASUAG and SSIH gave rise to SMH, in an operation masterminded by Nicolas G. Hayek. SMH was renamed The Swatch Group in 1998. From the 1990s on, Hamilton was able to make use of movements made by ETA, also part of the Swatch Group, in watches based in part on its heritage of designs based on military and naval pieces from the 1920 to the 1950s, as well as its classic Ventura. In 2003 the Hamilton headquarters was moved from the USA to Biel/Bienne in Switzerland.
Hamilton International Ltd.
Tel. +41 32 343 38 60
Sylvain Dolla, CEO